In my novel Nearly Canaan, Jaya resumes her career in nonprofit enterprises – a field she left in moving to the Yoga Bootcamp from Manhattan.
Running nonprofits turns out to be a management specialty – and they are a major player in the economy, even if you don’t read a lot about them in the business section of the newspaper.
Here are some considerations.
- The nonprofit sector accounts for $65 billion of the U.S. economy – 5.4 percent of the gross national product.
- Nonprofits hire a tenth of the workforce – more than national defense, construction, real estate, and space exploration combined.
- There are more than 1.2 million public charities and foundations in the country.
- Only one-third of the organizations file with the IRS, leaving the rest off of the economic radar.
- The 950,000 public charity organizations – ranging across arts, culture, education, health care, and human services – comprise two-thirds of the nonprofits sector.
- Most of them are small. Nearly 30 percent of the public service organizations operate at under $100,000 a year. The largest group, 37 percent, runs between $100,000 and $499,999. The largest group, of $10 million or more, is just 5.3 percent of the organizations but doles out 87 percent of the money.
- Nearly half of their revenue comes from fees for services and goods – ticket sales, tuition, hospital fees, membership fees, and product sales. Another third comes from government programs and grants. The remainder comes from donations (15 percent) and investment income (5 percent).
- Religion is the largest charity category, with a third of the pot, followed by education, 13 percent. Other standouts: Health, at 7.4 percent; arts, culture, and humanities at 4.1 percent; environment or animals, 2 percent.
- One in four Americans volunteers time and service to these causes. Their volunteer service, averaging 52 hours a year per person, is valued at $1.5 trillion. They also donate $358 billion in fundraising.
- The total assets of public charities in the U.S. comes to $3.7 trillion.
Do you donate to any nonprofit groups? Do you volunteer? Do you rely on their services?
In my novel Nearly Canaan, Joshua and Jaya settle into a place unlike anything they would have imagined. Though they live in desert, it still spawns salmon.
Oh, what a fish.
- There are eight commercially important species of salmon in the Pacific, and nine in the Atlantic.
- Some species can reach five feet in length and 110 pounds in weight.
- The body color changes, depending on habitat and the mating seasons. It’s not always the dark orange we see on our dinner plate.
- They have a lot of natural enemies, including big fish, whales, sea lions, and bears. Commercial and sport fishermen take a big toll, too.
- They’re healthy food, rich in proteins, Vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- They can survive three to eight years in the wild.
- They travel thousands of miles from their freshwater spawning areas out to the sea and then return to their birthplace to spawn more. They can climb up to 7,000 feet elevation from the sea to accomplish this. Most will then die of exhaustion.
- They do not eat any food during the time they swim upstream to spawn.
- Swimming upstream, they can jump two yards in the air.
- A female Chinook salmon can carry more than 4,000 eggs.
Every December, the Boston Revels produces a new winter solstice celebration that now plays to 18 sold-out performances in Harvard’s historic Sanders Theatre. Or did, before the Covid-19 restrictions.
From their first round in 1970, the shows have grown into a unique hybrid of storytelling, theater, dance, concert, audience singalong and other participation. Each year focuses on a different corner of the world or a historical event.
Guest artists bring their traditions to the company, and the costuming and sets are always spectacular. Nobody could forget the big canoe that came flying out over the audience in a Canadian show a couple of decades back.
Well, this year’s production won’t be live in the flesh, but rather a streamed online retrospective. I don’t really know how to count it. Still, if you go to the revels.org website, you can attend a virtual show wherever you dwell. Admittedly, it won’t quite be the same.
Here are ten we’ve especially enjoyed.
- Leonardo da Vinci. This was founder John Langstaff’s final appearance with the troupe, and it focused on three different cities in Renaissance Italy.
- The road to Campostela. The culture of Spain’s Galatian region was featured in this homage to the pilgrimage known as The Way. Storyteller Jay O’Callahan was captivating, the flamenco was quite moving, and you wouldn’t forget those Spanish bagpipes.
- Wales. There’s more to the British enclave than Dylan Thomas, though it did provide the timeframe for this production.
- England’s Crystal Palace. How truly Victorian.
- Venice in the 1500s. The music wasn’t all Italian and Latin, by the way. The Croatian, Sephardic, and Turkish pieces were all hits. And the story was a delightful comedy.
- Acadia and Cajun. We followed the life and expulsion of this French-speaking people from Canada to New Orleans. The big tree at the back of the stage kept shifting color as needed, and the stream of immigrants into exile seemed to be endless, even though it was only the chorus of children and adults repeating their exodus toward the audience.
- Nordic. Six languages, including English, big slices of the Kalevala myth, and a lot of polkas. The Scandinavian fiddles are distinctive.
- Armenia and Georgia. I loved the economy of this one. The first act centered on a pilgrim in Armenia, where the Christian church took root at the foot of Mount Arrat, the landing place of Noah and his ark. From there, the second act followed him one locale over, to the Republic of Georgia. Though so close together, the traditions were also strikingly different. The Revels headquarters is in Watertown, a major center of Armenian population and culture, so finding a great cantor was no problem.
- Scotland. Langstaff had a passion for Britain, and its folk culture is deeply engrained in the Revels DNA. We didn’t get to the acclaimed Irish show, but this one included reels we still dance in New England as well as songs familiar and rare.
- American roots. Last year’s show started at a rural radio station somewhere in the South and covered a lot of ground by the end.
What live Christmas season events have become part of your tradition?
In my novel Yoga Bootcamp, Jaya’s guru is a native of Memphis, there on the Mississippi River.
And much of the action in my novels Nearly Canaan and The Secret Side of Jaya takes place in Arkansas, right across the river.
It’s more influential than I’d thought.
Here are ten tidbits.
- It’s populous. With a metro population of more than 1.3 million, Greater Memphis is the most populous locality in Tennessee. However, the city itself has 650,000 residents, making it second behind Nashville.
- FedEx headquarters. The airport is the world’s second-biggest cargo operation.
- The river. The busy shipping port moves 11 million tons of cargo a year, much of it arriving by train or truck.
- King Cotton. Half of the nation’s cotton is traded at the Cotton Exchange on the riverfront.
- Music. Sun Records (founded in 1950) became the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s. It was the first label to record Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. It was sold in 1969 and eventually moved to Nashville. Meanwhile, Stax Records (1959-1976) was a fountain of the Memphis Sound, mixing blues, rhythm and blues, and soul.
- Graceland. Presley’s mansion is visited by 600,000 tourists each year. In America, only the White House attracts more.
- Civil rights. The motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down in 1968 now houses the National Civil Rights Museum, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate.
- Edible flesh: The city is the largest livestock and meatpacking center in the South.
- Fire up: The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest each May offers $110,000 in prizes.
- Namesake: It’s named for the city on the Nile in Egypt.
Ever been there? What struck your fancy?
It’s in the air. Can’t help but wonder.
- Raise taxes on the super-rich to bring them more into line with the rest of the populace. Like if you own 50 percent of the wealth, you pay at least 50 percent of the federal budget. Use the income for health care, education, and similar benefits for all citizens. (Yes, it’s income redistribution … but so is an economy where cheap imports keep lowering wages.)
- Support environmental action and sustainable economics. We’d be back in the Paris climate control accords, for certain.
- Raise the cap on Social Security contributions by the rich. Of course, we can afford Social Security if we’re willing. Just raise the cap on the superrich.
- Demand auditing controls on military expenditures. Bernie’s right on this one.
- Impose a national sales tax for health care relief for domestic manufacturers. This would level the playing field when it comes to imports versus homegrown.
- The next step? Medicare for all.
- Raise the minimum wage. Nobody can live on the current level. It’s an insult to the value of labor.
- Recognize a shorter work week as the basis for benefits and workplace protections.
- Break up the banking and financial conglomerates. Too big to fail is an invitation to another colossal collapse.
- Name Barack Obama to the Supreme Court.
OK, since we’re dreaming, I’d also have a problem-solving Congress. One without Mitch McConnell.
What would you do?